Topic A: Sustainable Transportation
As the world’s population continues to grow, the need for improved forms of transportation and transit increases. Access to transportation is vital for providing opportunities to jobs and schools, moving goods and people, and generating tax revenue. Furthermore, the utilization of sustainable forms of transportation is imperative for responsible growth and development. In 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) emphasized the need for sustainable transportation as well as the ways in which this goal could be achieved through processes like emissions reduction and energy efficiency. At the 2016 Global Sustainable Transport Conference, the UN further emphasized that by 2050, the number of vehicles on the road will reach approximately 2 billion, but the efforts to increase efficiency will not match the negative environmental impact of this growth. With inefficiency like this, transportation worldwide becomes not only a problem for individuals, but a problem for the environment, with inefficient carbon emissions contributing to a rapidly changing climate. The need for sustainable transportation also impacts the potential for success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relating to poverty, agricultural productivity, economic productivity, and others. Action by the UNEP and other environmental organizations in improving current modes of transportation to be more sustainable is vital for achieving the SDGs and protecting the environment from further harm. Without these efforts, emissions from current forms of transportation will result in further atmospheric degradation and ecological damage.
Topic B: The Environmental Impact of Refugee Camps
As natural disasters and political crises continue to displace people, refugee camps are evolving to better suit the needs of those in dire conditions. One of the most crucial aspects of a camp involves the camp’s level of sustainability. Environmental standards tend to be less of a priority for a refugee camp, as its primary goal is to attend to pressing humanitarian needs. This makes it difficult to reduce the amount of waste produced by a camp’s inhabitants and workers. Environmental risk factors include the potential for soil erosion, air pollution, wildlife destruction, and deforestation. In 1995, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published the “Environmental Guidelines,” establishing environmental policies and natural resource management standards for refugee crisis situations. The Guidelines stressed four major principles: integration, prevention before cure, cost-effectiveness, and local participation. A joint effort between the UNHCR and the non-governmental organization CARE International created the ‘FRAMEwork’ toolkit to be used in assessment, evaluation, and monitoring of the environment in refugee situations. As the average time of displacement edges towards 20 years, it becomes more pressing to create strategically-designed camps that can best tend to the populations that they primarily serve.